OMeadowlark Gallery: The Artist Biographies

Earl E. Heikka (1910-1941)

In her book, "E. E. Heikka, Sculptor of the American West," Vivian Paladin said that Earl E. Heikka lived for only thirty-one years, but during those few years he created over two hundred pieces of art that today stand as some of the best sculpture of life and work in the American West. In the tradition of C. M. Russell and Frederic Remington, Heikka observed a passing era and depicted the products of that world in both heroic and human terms. The young boy from Great Falls, Montana, used his unusual talent to model cowboys in action and taking their ease, pack trains bringing in the bounties of a hunt, and scenes from Butte's deep mines. He created magnificent sculptures of western characters--vigilantes, country doctors, and riders for the Pony Express--many now on exhibit at the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls. Earl E. Heikka was a troubled youth who suffered from the death of his father in 1915 and his favorite brother in 1935. A victim of alcohol and burdened with increasing personal problems, Heikka nevertheless was a keen observer who loved spending time in the out of doors--in Glacier National Park, along the Sun River, and in the mountains around Great Falls. When he was only nineteen years old, Heikka attracted the attention of William A. Clark III, the grandson of Butte copper king W. A. Clark. With Clark as his patron, Heikka began to achieve some recognition. His first exhibit outside Montana was in Los Angeles in 1931; two years later his work was shown at the Chicago Exposition. With men like Marshall Field, Gary Cooper, and Con Kelley commissioning his work, Heikka's career seemed assured. But then on May 18, 1941, the young artist killed himself, ending his short but brilliant career. Fortunately, Heikka has left a legacy to all lovers of the West and western art--a collection of wonderfully detailed models that preserve the scenes and the emotions of Montanans early years.

View high resolution images of works by Earl E. Heikka when available.